Archive for the ‘Complaints’ Category

The Cost Of Cable TV

     TV Reception

No I’m not endorsing the 2008 Torrent SUV (or whatever that car is), I’m demonstrating our crystal clear TV reception…with $17 rabbit ears from Radio Shack.

     I often rant about our cable company Time-Warner and how much I despise it. Buck feels the same way. We have the package that combines TV, telephone, and Internet service. If you’re familiar with these packages you know that they find out which channel you really want, in our case that would be the Speed Channel (which for us is job-related). We had to have HBO if we wanted the Speed Channel, so that’s what we got despite the fact we rarely watch HBO, if at all.

     In late July we received a letter informing all Time-Warner subscribers that its rates will be increasing in a few weeks. This would put our monthly bill at about $200, almost half of it going towards cable TV.

     We were so disgusted with this new circumstance — because we can think of about a dozen things we’d rather do with a hundred bucks than spend it on TV — we called Time-Warner and canceled it.

Yes we canceled TV.

     And then we went to Radio Shack and bought an old-fashioned antennaantenna for $17. But we quickly learned that old-fashioned antennas aren’t so old-fashioned anymore. We plugged it into the television (it comes with a 6′ easy-to-use cable that simply plugs in to the TV) and watched as our TV came on with a crystal clear picture.


     We were stunned into silence, staring at this reception that was as good as what we’d been paying all that money for every month for the past I-don’t-know-how-many-years. And because we can read each others minds, we said in unison, “Fuck you, Time-Warner.”

     Granted, we don’t get all the specialty channels that come with cable TV, but we still get PBS and Fox, as well as NBC, CBS, ABC, and about a dozen channels out of Mexico.

     The weird thing is that while we live and die by TV, when we don’t have it we don’t care. We just don’t care. And we’d rather watch the shows we love like Sunny In Philadelphia and Flight of the Concords we’d rather watch on DVD anyway, because we have addictive personalities and want to watch them in marathon sessions.

     And there are tons of shows you can watch online. You’ll find a partial list of them here.

     We’ll have to buy the converter box by January, but it’s a one time purchase and you can get a coupon for that here.

     I’m blogging about this because I want people to know you don’t have to be a slave to the cable TV and Dish companies. If you’re interested but nervous about making the break, go buy an antenna and try it before you cancel your cable or dish. You can always return the antenna if you don’t like it.

     But I’ve gotta tell you, there’s an incredible sense of freedom that comes with eliminating the cable TV bill from your monthly budget.

    P.S. – If you’re interested in the same antenna we bought, click on the photo and it will take you to Radio Shack.

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Wal-Mart As Bad Religion


Me: Could you repeat that?

Buck: I said, the shopping cart etiquette at Wal-Mart is so fucking out of control I just can’t begin to believe it.

Me: Really.

Buck: Really. Trying to push a shopping cart around Wal-Mart, just minding your own business, is impossible. The way people act . . . they think they’re Britney Spears shopping in the store all alone after hours.

Me: [laughing] [laughing]  I know. That is true. But it’s not just at Wal-Mart. I have problems everywhere I go that a shopping cart is involved.

Buck: You know, I go out on a simple mission and I figure I’ll surprise you with a new Rubbermaid sink divider —

Me: I hate when you surprise me with stuff like that —

Buck: — because I know you’ll never remember one because of your list problem, and, it’s especially bad when you venture down into the kitchen aisles. You know the kitchen aisles?

Me: Yeah.

Buck: Oh my God. It’s like people’s brains are gone. They’re all thinking, Hmm, what sort of accouterment should I get for my gold chandelier at home, or some crap . . .

Me: Like what?

Buck: Oh I don’t know, some add-on device for their chandelier.

Me: Well my flowers are gorgeous, and these candles are beautiful … thank you! I really needed some new candles, because most of mine are used up.

Buck: I thought you’d really like this one, because of the devil’s horns.

Me: Well, I don’t think that’s actually the devil’s horns —

Buck: It’s devil horns, trust me.

Me: Okay. But  it kind of looks like a mystical half moon, or maybe the top part of a golden ox . . . I hope it’s a golden ox’s tusk. I like to think everyone’s been wrong about idols, etcetera, because they’re kinda fun. I think the ox tusks are sitting atop a magic lamp. Sure looks like a magic lamp —

Buck: Oh. Read this. It’s a Saint for the depressed. It’s protecting us from the depths of despair. We should light a whole bunch of these.

Me: Oh my God yes! We should cover every surface in this house with these candles for the depressed and the desperately despairing. Lit candles.

Buck: It says, As you gaze upon us, help us, provide remedies for our pain and do not abandon us when we sin.

Me: Well … that’s for you really, now isn’t it. You’re the Catholic. Only Catholics sin. In my family’s religion there’s no sin. Sin is so stupid, we don’t have it. There are crimes . . . crimes against humanity, crimes against the law, but not sins. The whole concept of sin is just so preposterous —

Buck: And that’s why you’re going straight to Hell.

Me: We don’t have Hell in my family, either.

Buck: They’re all going to Hell too.

Me: . . .

Buck: This Saint is another virgin. This one’s from San Juan. There are a lot of these virgins around —

Me: I know, isn’t it great? There’s a virgin for every situation. Now we, the depressed, have one.

Buck: How did all these virgins propagate? If it’s immaculate conception, someone’s been really busy.

Me: I don’t know. I’ll ask Barbara. But I can’t call her now. It’s almost my nap time, and in her world it’s the time of day when she gets in her Jeep and drives around drinking coffee. There’s a small window during the morning when I make my phone calls to people, and right now it’s much too late in the day. I’ve already turned the phone off anyway.

Buck: The blue of that candle … what is that? Ethereal blue, I think. 

Me: Oh god no. It’s royal blue. Ethereal, now that’s a word for me. Ethereal is one of my words. I try and use it whenever it applies. I love ethereal, and that’s not it. That’s royal blue.

Buck: I got you another Barbara candle, because I figured it was time.

Me: Yeah, another day or so and it will have gone out, so I do need a new Barbara Writing Candle. You’re a mind reader. I like to keep a candle lit at all times for Barbara’s writing. The flame must burn for her latest book, even when we go out to dinner.

Buck: Read the back of this candle–

Me: I don’t have to read the back, I’ve memorized it —

Buck: It looks like you wrote this to Barbara, Prayer to Santa Barbara, my sublime and generous protectress —

Me: [laughing]

Buck:I beseech you to deliver me from all the wickedness and snares of the devil, who would keep me in misery and sin.

Me:[laughing] Yes? What’s so funny? She does that for me —

Buck: Barbara’s got the inside track, huh?

Me: [laughing] She does.

Buck: It looks like she’s doing a trick.

Me: Yeah. She’s making an ethereal sphere come out of her coffee cup and float over it —

Buck: No, she’s holding it up to the moonlight. It’s trick photography.

Me: Whatever. But I seriously do like to keep a candle lit for her writing at all times, so I really appreciate that you thought of me and got this. It saves me from having to leave the house.

Buck: Plus, Saint Barbara’s got a sword here. What the hell is that? I thought a pen was mightier than the sword.

Me: You’re right. And the pen is mightier than the sword. Could you fix that for me?

Buck: Put it on my desk.

Me: Thank you.

 Buck: So I get you candles and flowers, and I got an air filter, some dog treats, and light bulbs.

Me: So what was your problem with Wal-Mart etiquette?

Buck: Wal-Mart is Hell. I feel like I should wear a helmet when I’m in there. A motorcycle helmet. Because there’s all these people going around with the blank look on their face like they’re not really there, and they’re dangerous. They just slam around. Like, there was this woman who slammed her cart into mine, blocking me so I couldn’t move, and she just walked away from it … she just left her cart blocking me and started shopping! 

Me: My God. They’re so stupid, aren’t they?

Buck: So I said to her, Excuse me, excuse me, and she looked at me like she was disgusted.

Me: Remember when I was at the supermarket on Sunday and met that old guy in the wheelchair cart who needed help?

Buck: Yes. I remember it well.

Me: Well.  It was mobbed in the aisle, and he kept asking people to help him reach the marmalade, and they all ignored him! That’s how I ended up helping this guy to shop … because I was the only person who responded to him asking for help. But I was way down the other end of the aisle, and I had to worm my way through the crowd to get to him, for crying out loud. And when I ever found out he was from New York City, I almost had a fit.

Buck: Because you figured they could smell East Coast on him?

Me: YES! There was something wrong, don’t you think? I mean, why wouldn’t anyone help him?! They certainly heard him. Was it the way he pronounced marmalade? Was that the repellent?

Buck: Probably.

Me: So I ended up having to go around the store with him and help him shop. Not that I minded. I actually enjoyed it. We talked about how much we hate it here, and how the hot dogs suck, and you can’t get a decent bagel —

Buck: I’m sure you did. You must have made quite a pair, strolling through the Texans and kvetching about the absence of a good deli. Did you tell him your theory about Jesus hating the Yankees?

Me: Well … he was from New York

Buck: Yes. And you’re from Boston …

Me: Soooo … noooo … I didn’t get around to … I don’t have a lot of friends here … No. I did not tell the old man from New York how Jesus hates the Yankees. But I did tell him how my mother was a native New Yorker. And we talked about Manhattan for awhile —

Buck: So anyway.

Me: I can’t keep talking about shopping cart rudeness, I have like a million instances I could cite and I’m really fed up with it. I’m like Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

Buck: We’re both like Michael Douglas in Falling Down. And that’s why it’s my all-time favorite movie. So anyway. I’m down in the curtain aisle, looking for your curtain rod thing, and there’s this woman down there looking at the rods too.

Me: Uh oh.

Buck: She looks right at me, and just as I’m starting to walk by her, she pulls out a giant curtain rod and I had to dodge it to avoid getting hit in the face! And she immediately turns to me and says, Oh, did I hit you? 

Me: That’s terrible. What’s wrong with people? Seriously, what-is-wrong-with-people? Why is everyone so inconsiderate? It’s so depressing to me. These people are horrible. And I don’t understand. Why doesn’t anyone use common courtesy? Why? Do we expect too much? Are we too polite?

Buck: Yes. I wish these fucking shopping carts had horns on them.

Me: Car horns or devil horns?

Buck: Car horns, so I could beep at these people. Though devil horns might be better, so I can impale them.

Me: Or an ox tusk. An ox tusk would be good.

Buck: Ox don’t have tusks.

Me: Not the contemporary oxen, no. But the golden ones used for idolatry do have tusks. The car horn is a good idea, too. I’m sure a bike horn would work just as well. Note to self, get a bike horn for my shopping cart.

Buck: Yeah, that’ll look good. Be sure you bring your cat with you to ride in the basket.

Me: Well now you’re just talking crazy. I don’t even have a cat.


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Of all our toasters this wasn’t the worst but

it was far from acceptable.  It’s made by Toastmaster

and I got it at Homegoods for $12.99. It toasted the

bread ever-so-slightly on one side only. The other side

of the bread remained cold and raw. This toaster sucks.

At the very least, the array of coffee grinders that sat in our storage unit was proof of our problem and if a qualified third party were to rifle through our belongings — an anthropologist say, or a psychologist —  he or she would quickly come to that conclusion. “It would appear this tribe could not part with their coffee grinders,” Dr. Howard reports. “On the contrary, they worshipped them. Here we’ve unearthed hundreds of the things.”

We of course don’t worship them. In fact, I’ve developed a neurosis over our current one (See previous post.). But if a coffee grinder works at all we simply keep it and put it away for an emergency, no matter how much we actually hate the thing. With the toasters, not so much.

Our inventory of emergency toasters is always zero, although we’ve bought probably 40 toasters over the years. I’m serious. I know we’ve bought at least 40 toasters (this figure includes toaster ovens) because we’ve even gone through these really weird periods where we purchased a new toaster every week for several weeks in a row.

This was the case in the early part of 1993 when every Saturday we brought a new toaster into the house, and every Sunday we carried it back out. That went on for a long time. We eventually solved the problem by giving up toast.

But somewhere along the line we wanted toast again, or maybe it was bagels. Yes, it was totally bagels and it was 1997 when my daughter had started working in a bagel shop after school. A bagel shop that allowed each employee a dozen free bagels each week. We got a Black & Decker toaster during that period, because it had slots large enough for a bagels. It worked okayyyy for a while. Then we stopped getting free bagels when she left for college, and the toaster stopped working around the same time. Weird, I know. Coincidence? I don’t know. But we again gave up eating anything that required toasting.

Then about a year ago we took up toast again, and fell back into that in- and-out toaster buying pattern of the early 90’s. But it took me a while to realize it.

 Last January I was standing at the dumpster tossing out our third toaster in three weeks when it suddenly occurred to me the situation felt vaguely familiar. I was experiencing toaster déjà vu. Angry thoughts were running through my head in a disjointed rebroadcast of sorts, like when you have to wait for your computer to upload something and it takes a really long time and starts to remind you of everything you tried to do with Windows 3.0.

It was then I realized I’d had these same thoughts and done this very toaster tossing thing years before, and how we really are doomed to repeat our mistakes. With toasters, anyway.

Defective toasters we do not keep, and it seems like all toasters made in the last 20 years are defective. We’ve asked each other countless times, “Is it us? Together do we give off an electrical charge that when in direct proximity to a toaster renders it useless?”

Because Buck actually has that power over streetlights. He mentioned this in passing when we were first dating and I didn’t know what to think of it. Then I began witnessing it first hand and it’s true. He will be driving along a well-lit road, or  walking, or bicycling, when suddenly the street light overhead will just pop and go black. I’ve seen him do it, and I’ve even seen him do it to two streetlights in succession on the same road.

Does his powerful internal streetlight popper go into turbo charge when around toasters? Even the toasters we’ve yet to pull out of the box? Was Buck’s streetlight popper breaking the toaster even as we stood in the check-out line? Because we’ve bought toasters that didn’t work at all, they were just dead. Buck’s streetlight power working equally well on toasters makes about as much sense as any other reason why it is that in this new millennium somebody somewhere isn’t making a fucking toaster that works properly.

And we’ve tried them all. We’ve bought toasters that cost $50 from a gourmet cooking store, toasters that cost eight-dollars from the hardware store, and every price in between. I once bought a toaster from Williams-Sonoma that cost $100 and I had to return it the next day because the toast was always too dark. Can you believe it? A $100 for a stupid toaster — and it doesn’t work properly.

For awhile we had some luck with $8 toasters, but someone figured out what was happening and put a stop to it, some CEO somewhere, because around 1995 even the $8 stopped being worth the money.

Some toasters we’ve returned to the store within hours of buying them, others we’ve lazily tossed into the trash within a week or so. Some start out very promising, turning out an excellent crispy piece of toast that is exactly the correct shade of golden-brown on the first try. But then the thing seizes up and refuses to produce in the second lap.

I’ve had some of the most stressful and disappointing moments of my life come to a full head over Oster toasters. I’ve purchased two Oster toasters in my life and incredibly neither one worked at all. Both were dead in the box. They both came from Costco, but they were born a year apart. I bought the first one, brought it home and plugged it in, only to have my toast sit cold and ignored in the unresponsive toast cage. I repeated this same exercise a little over a year later; bought an Oster toaster at Costco, brought it home, and my toast sat ignored in the dead toaster.

This past year, Jesus somehow heard about this toaster problem and led me to a DēLonghi RT200 Retro 2-Slice Toaster that does more than work, it works beautifully. And I know it was Jesus who led me to the DēLonghi because it was truly a miracle. It cost about $29 and I think Jesus planted it at Target. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was Target. We eat toast every day now. And it also does bagels. But we’re still left with Satan’s coffee grinder, which sounds so fucking awful I can’t stop turning it on. Which is, I’m sure, exactly how Satan likes it.


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Our coffee maker isn’t terrible, but the grinder has given me an actual neurosis.

Today I finally settled on a name for this neurotic compulsion I have to hit the on-button on the coffee grinder every time I walk past it. I’m calling it a neurotic compulsion.

My motivation behind hitting the button four, maybe five times a day is my deep loathing of the noise it makes. It is an ungodly sound akin only to a chainsaw cutting through a plate glass window, or perhaps a crystal chandelier tossed into a wood chipper.

This might not make sense to a lot people, this business of repeating the very act one finds so repugnant, deliberately exposing oneself to a sound so shockingly grating as to make one’s hair stand on end. But to me it makes perfect sense. I hate that noise so very much I just want it to be over and done with while it’s not necessary so that when it is necessary I won’t need to do it.

See, when I’m at the point when I need coffee I’m in a state so fragile, the sound of glass in a wood chipper is enough to shake loose my tentative grip on sanity. I have an actual fear of it, I am afraid of having to grind coffee at the very moment I need a cup. So I do it continually throughout the day (constantly, really) just to make sure this fear never comes to fruition.

I doubt the people at Cuisinart considered the possibility of inciting a neurosis such as mine when they were measuring the decibel levels on the prototype of their top-of-the-line coffee grinder, assuming they do indeed test such a thing. And as I understand it they do run tests. I picture a team of scientists in long white coats standing in a sound-proof lab at Cuisinart headquarters and attaching wires to the coffee grinder via suction cups, then carefully securing their Cuisinart-issued ear plugs in the auditory canal of their pointed little ears before hitting the dreaded on-button.

Once the coffee has ground and the beast has fallen silent, the chief scientist (whom I imagine to be named Philip) will furrow his brow and say, Well it is red lining on my soundomesphire, but I wouldn’t call the levels insufferable.

And look here, Phil, during the Ella Fitzgerald Test this crystal wine glass didn’t even shatter, one of his colleagues will point out.

Right,” says Philip. “I say it’s a go!

Perilously juggling the obnoxiously-oversized Starbucks coffee bag from Costco over the coffee grinder conjures up a similar picture in my head, except this particular team of scientists gathered in the Sumatra lab at the Starbucks factory will have more pretentious lab coats embroidered with the words Unwieldy Package Design Dept. in a tasteful shade of hunter green over their pen-filled breast pockets. In my mind, one of the team produces a measuring tape to record the dimensions of a giant foil bag and says with disgust, This isn’t nearly awkward enough and it will never play at Costco. Hey now, c’mon guys. Jeebers, we’ve been over this a thousand times: the bag must be totally unmanageable. We need to go longer and much wider. Get it together!

The Cuisinart coffee grinder was our first purchase in El Paso, in spite of the fact we already had a combined total of seven coffee grinders packed in various boxes that were sitting in our storage unit on the east side of the city where we couldn’t reach them. When we buy a new coffee grinder we never throw out the old one because — and here’s a fear Buck and I share — we’re scared that someday we’ll be in desperate need of a freshly-ground cup of coffee only to discover that the grinder has died quietly in secret.

However. Should this ever actually happen I am less likely to be effected by it than Buck, as I am always two steps ahead of the coffee grinder because of my compulsion to hit the on-button several times throughout the day to insure this never, ever happens to me. Were the coffee grinder to die, I would know it immediately long before I actually needed a cup.

Buying coffee grinders has been an ongoing theme in our relationship. Coffee grinders and toasters, that’s what we buy.

Tomorrow: 40 Toasters In 22 Years


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Dear George Noory,

Where the hell are the aliens? The Shadow People? The cryptozoologists? The ghost hunters and remote viewers? The exorcists?

Let me say right up front that I love you and I truly mean you no disrespect here. But what was up with that “Taxation Special” you had Sunday night?

I didn’t like it.

I’m not going to go totally off on you about this because I know you’re already taking a wicked savage and brutal beating on the forums and message boards lately. But really, a four-hour “Taxation Special”? Great Zeus, man, what were you thinking? That’s not a topic for Coast to Coast! A Louisiana lawyer talking about his tax evasion case? And geez  …. do you really need me to tell you that “Former IRS Special Agent Joe Banister” is a boring guest?

Jeezus. Your tax special actually woke me up at 3 AM last night when it sunk into my sleeping brain that some former IRS examiner was talking about how she stopped filing taxes in 1999 because there is no law requiring anyone to actually pay them. NOT ONCE DID SHE MENTION BEING ABDUCTED BY ALIENS!

Why was this garbage on the radio in the middle of the night? I’m not looking to think at that hour, George, I’m looking for something to take my mind off of stuff like that. And here you are piping it into my brain. No law requiring people to pay taxes? If that doesn’t wake you up and get your brain going I don’t know what will.

The only reason I was able to get back to sleep was because the next show on my C2C playlist came up quickly, and it was the Saturday night show where Ian Punnett  interviewed people about having sex with robots. Thank God for Ian. Because that’s what it’s come to, man. I’m now having to look to Ian for my bedtime stories. Ian is getting all the cool guests now, have you noticed that?

I mean, a couple weeks ago you had that “Secret Door IV” special where your first guest was financial advisor Howard Ruff discussing sub-prime mortgage rates. Does that sound like something you’d want to listen to as you’re trying to drift off to sleep?

You’re committing professional suicide and I’m scared for you. What is going on?

I’m not looking for Art Bell; you and Art do indeed have “different styles” as you’re always pointing out to certain rude callers, and that’s cool. That’s fine. I’m not looking for Art. But I am looking for George Noory! Have you seen him? Where did he go? Who is this guy who comes on every night claiming to be you? Who is this guy who ran a show devoted to the oil crises?

Now, tonight, I see that one of your scheduled guests is an aerospace engineer who will be laying out a strategy to cut our dependence on foreign oil. You’re killing me, George.

Unless this guy’s strategy includes a dozen or more Shadow People who will harness the power of Big Foot to mine a distant planet for all the oil that’s being hoarded by the Grays … I will be pissed.


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I’m transcribing yesterday’s taped interview for Sunday Q&A. This is not it. While I’m doing that, I wanted to share with you my email from the NYT.

A couple of weeks ago I sent a letter to the Sunday New York Times pointing out the misinformation in a story about the State Lunatic Asylum at Danvers (Massachusetts), which is being turned into apartments and condos. I  also posted the letter here on this blog. Yesterday the NYT ran a correction, and although they didn’t take me up on my offer to write a feature story for them, the senior editor did send me a nice email. As a result of Greg Brock taking two minutes to send me a personal email — which I never expected him to do — he is now my homes.  Here’s his note, along with the correction just in case you missed it in yesterday’s paper. And if you’re ever at a cocktail party and you hear anyone say a negative word about Greg Brock, grab a cheese knife and jack ’em up for me. 

Dear [Life With Buck] :
Indeed, you are correct — and we were wrong.  So we ran a correction in Sunday’s paper.  I have pasted the correction below.
Thanks for reading The Times, and for taking the time to write.  Write anytime you have a question or see a problem.  We appreciate readers who keep us on our collective toes.
Best regards,
Greg Brock
Senior Editor

October 21, 2007, Sunday    Late Edition – Final
Section 11    Page 2   
Desk: Real Estate Desk    Length: 95 words
Type: Correction
The National Perspectives article last Sunday, about residential developments in buildings once used for different purposes, referred imprecisely to the design of one such building, the State Lunatic Hospital in Danvers, Mass. While Dr. Thomas Kirkbride designed a system for laying out mental hospitals in the 19th century, he was not the architect of this hospital. (That was Nathaniel J. Bradlee.)
In addition, two photographs with the continuation of the article were reversed. The former St. Louis City Hospital was at bottom left and the former asylum in Traverse City, Mich., was at bottom right.

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